Friday, March 28, 2008

One fast way to be rejected or fired

Be mean, rude, or otherwise unbearable to the non-agent staff in the office.

Yup, that'll do it.

There are three people in our office who you might think of as "assistants." They are not. They are godsends. They are incredibly valuable, and I treasure them. These are the people who sort the mail, run the manuscripts through the xerox, prepare the UPS shipments, order the office supplies, and answer the phone. They are worth every penny they get paid, and should be paid a lot more.

Anyone who is rude to them is foolish and shortsighted. Given a choice between them and anyone else, I pick them. They make my life easier. It's not a hard choice.

They get to put up with exactly as much crap from people as they choose. If they don't want to deal with you, you're fired. As a client. As a prospect. As an anything.

If you want to yell at someone, you can yell at me. Don't even think about yelling or being rude to anyone else. You're replaceable. They are not.

30 comments:

I-hate-trying-to-think-of-a-name said...

Amen!
I used to work as a server, and was amazed at how many people would behave atrociously to the "help" and sweetly to their guests. You're not kind (or even professional) if you don't act that way to everyone.

Eric said...

Your agency wouldn't want a client who was dumb enough not to know that the so called "assistants" run an office. I once ran a magazine and didn't think twice about firing the editor when she had a fight with my "assistant." My assistant later went on to become one of the best publication distribution people in Asia at about twice the salary of the editor who I had fired.

Libby Loo said...

I don't get people who feel they have to be condescending or yell to get what they want. And Eric is absolutely right; I used to work for a highly specialized surgeon and he always used to tell people that his staff was the brains of the operation and he was the monkey who came in and did surgery. He never tolerated patients, colleagues, or other people who were rude to his staff. In fact, he'd get on the phone and return the "favor" when they treated us horribly.

Amen for bosses like him and you who value their staff!

Merry Monteleone said...

There are always people like that, who see someone that they perceive is below them in some way and decide it's okay to direct their abuse to that person. It's a great tell of character, too, how you treat the people who can help you isn't nearly as impressive as how your treat the ones you think can't hurt you...

I will say, though, you'd be great to work for - a lot of bosses just look at that type of thing as part of the job.

Ryan Field said...

Good for you. Good assistants make life better.

Eric said...

But of course I do reserve the right to yell at you. You're my agent after all, and isn't that part of the job description?

M. G. Tarquini said...

OMG! What happened?

Joanne Levy said...

As an assistant (albeit not in publishing), I thank you.

Wise people know assistants are the gatekeepers.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Amen to that, Janet.

Now, if they are rude FIRST, all bets are off...

Mags said...

Awesome.

Nadine said...

I hate when people think they can be rude to assistants!! In fact, I just plain hate it when people are rude!

Unfortunately, I have also been in a job where my boss didn't care who was rude to his assistants. I didn't stay long there.

A Novel Woman said...

Forget about sending you a query. I want to send you a job application.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Oh ... oh ... nicely said. ....

Real conversation:

Man: I want this book but the price is rediculous! I'll give you five dollars.

Me: Let me see? (He thumps the book on the counter.)

Humm (Looking at the 250.00 price and wondering if his idiocy is genetic or practiced.)

I can't do that, sir. This is rare in fine condition (let's hope it stays in that condition. No thumping semi-rare books on the counter, please. ... all wispered to self) There is a copy of Koldewey's Excavations online for less. About 130.00 if I remember right. But it's not in Fine condition. I can't sell this for five dollars.

He: (Raised eyebrows)I want to talk to the manager.

Me: I am the manager, sir.

He: No, I mean the real manager. Not some kid.

Me: (With mixed feelings ... It's not too bad to be taken for a kid when you're 30) I'm the owner, sir.
Would you like the address of the bookseller with the less expensive copy?

He: (Turns to leave) I will not be back! You need to learn how to please a customer! I'm telling my friends how rude you are ....

Me: (thinking: You actually have friends?) puts book back in case. sighs.

Anne-Marie said...

Beautifully put, Janet.

In the school where I teach, I cringe when colleagues treat the secretaries and caretakers with disrespect or just dismiss them. The best advice I ever got (and didn't need because my parents had instilled respect for all workers earlier on in life) was to treat the school support staff with the greatest reverence- after all, they are the real power in a school, not the principal. I never forgot that.

Jamie Hall said...

With all the stories I hear from writers who walk on eggs around anyone who might have influence with an agent, it is just flabbergasting to hear stuff like this.

Julie Weathers said...

I have a very attractive, charming friend who has an interesting way of determining if he is interested in a relationship with a woman.

He takes her to an elegant restaurant and watches how she treats the staff. If she is less than kind to any of them, he doesn't waste his time on her.

Frankly, I can't imagine anyone being anything less than stellar to staff.

Richard Mabry said...

In my medical practice, the quickest way for a patient to be told to find another doctor was for them to be abusive to my staff. Of course, my nurse was also my wife, but I was protective of (and appreciative for) everyone in the office. I couldn't have practiced without them.
It's nice to see that you appreciate the people with whom you work.

Chumplet said...

I was dragged into a role as a Classified Ad Taker and the people on the phone were incredibly rude and abusive. After six months of stomach aches, I jumped at the chance to move to the composing department. Machines are much easier to deal with.

I hope next week is better for you and your staff, Janet.

Liz Wolfe said...

One of my best friends routinely took a prospective employee to a restaurant for the interview. If the prospective employee was in any way rude to the serving staff, they didn't get the job.

Josh Everett Ryan said...

Sometimes it's just upsetting to see how people treat others when they feel superior somehow. Usually the situation gets especially terrible when that sort of person feels "inconvenienced" somehow.

It's a fairly brave and noble thing to offer yourself as a punching bag like that to protect friends, coworkers, or anyone else. It makes me wish more people practiced respect and understanding for their fellow human beings though, along with greater self-control.

The world would be a prettier place.

Kim Stagliano said...

My FIL (RIP) was called "The Mayor of Seagram's." I had the honor of spending time with him at work for a couple of years (Seagram's was one of my accounts, pure coincidence, OK, not.) He knew the custodians and building managers by name and ate his daily buttered bialy with them. He groomed and trained the man who became the President of Seagrams WorldWide. I've never forgotten that quality in him - able to walk with kings but retain the common touch. Man I miss him.

Do unto others... Pretty basic stuff. Sometimes hard to remember though. Janet, I like your mother bear instincts. I do.

Aimless Writer said...

I work as an assistant to the prez in my company and all I can say is Thank you! My boss is also protective of me, which is why I've been there almost ten years. Because she is so good to me I go way beyond my job description.
Sometimes I wonder if these rude people realize the assistant is your first step in impressing the higher ups? If the assistant has nice things to say about you the prez will hear them. If you treat them like crap-prez hears that too.

Twill said...

Being rude to servers, servants and assistants is a sign of poor breeding, bad interpersonal skills, and a lack of proper respect for what might end up in your food.

[segue to Red Dwarf reference:]

"gazpacho!"

Caryn said...

You don't know how good it is to hear you say that. I was once the girl behind the counter, both at a veterinary hospital and, later, at a bookstore. I did not take kindly to people who treated me rudely, just because they felt they could. And loyalty is an important quality. Sounds like you have it.

As for the authors' behavior, it may also be an indication of their relationships with the publishers (which would endanger your relationship with them) and with their readership (which would endanger sales). So good for you!

Anne Dayton said...

When I was an editorial assistant, the first thing I would do when someone was rude to me was tell my boss. And then every time that person called ever again? I would remind my boss again. Assistants have long memories.

ChristineEldin said...

This does say a lot about someone's character, or lack thereof.

Jen said...

Okay, this is an old thread, but I just wanna say, one time I heard my secretary on the phone with some guy who was obviously berating her. She kept trying to get a word in edgewise to apologize and couldn't. After listening to this for about five minutes I grabbed the phone from her and yelled at the guy, "STOP SCREAMING AT MY SECRETARY." There was a stunned silence, after which I said, "My name is Jennifer and I can help you, sir." He told me what he wanted and I got it for him. And, yeah, he called my boss and made all kinds of trouble, and yeah, it was kind of embarrassing, but the principle is sound. Never, but never, scream at a secretary. Especially your own secretary but even more if it's NOT your secretary. That's when you want to be as sweet and polite as possible so you can GET WHAT YOU WANT. I'm just sayin'.

Corra McFeydon said...

Clapping from the sidelines!!

natalie said...

Okay, I realize I'm getting a little comment happy on some pretty old posts, but as someone who is not only a wannabe writer (no wait, Be Confident!), as someone who is a god-damned writer, AND a union organizer, I cannot tell you how happy this post made me.

Pardon my spamming your moderation filters at all hours of the night from over here in Pacific Standard Time.

xxmissphoenixx said...

Authors being divas, really?